Committing to a yoga studio membership is an important milestone in every yoga practitioner’s life, and can be a pivotal turning point in the trajectory of your practice. While you may have previously dabbled with the studio classes offered at your local gym, or the sporadic free YouTube yoga video, if you’re ready to get serious about advancing your practice, this means picking the right yoga studio for you.
Here is a simple breakdown of the most common types of yoga studios to help you decide what kind of yoga practice you would benefit most from.
- What is it? Ashtanga is a traditional, lineage-based Yoga practice that involves synchronizing breath with a progressive series of postures that results in an intense internal heat and a purifying sweat, which in turn detoxifies muscles and organs.
- What to expect in a typical class: Yogis of all levels from brand-new beginners to advanced practitioners all practice in the same class. Each practitioner goes at their own pace to work through the Ashtanga Primary (most common), Second, Third, or Fourth (very rare) series. Each series of asanas go in linear order. Brand-new beginners can expect a lot of one-on-one guidance from Ashtanga teachers, while experienced practitioners quietly work through their current series at their own pace.
- Best for these goals: Building strength, body awareness, and skill through repetition.
- Where to practice: The Ashtanga teacher training is notoriously hard to attain, so make sure you video a studio with a certified instructor. You can find certified Ashtanga Yoga teachers here.
- What is it? Vinyasa Yoga is an offshoot variation of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga that does not require the postures to be practiced in a linear series, but rather can be fitted together in any order to create a smooth, constant flow of movement. The flowing nature of the practice is central to Vinyasa Yoga, so much so that it is often referred to simply as “Vinyasa Flow” or “Yoga Flow”.
- What to expect in a typical class: A good bet for practitioners of all skill levels, most classes start with the Sun Salutations flow and will progress onto slightly more difficult flows before ending with a restorative flow and Savasana (corpse pose). Expect to be constantly moving and receiving guidance on breathing in synchronization with movement.
- Best for these goals: Reducing stress, gaining flexibility and strength.
- Where to practice: Vinyasa is one of the most common types of yoga, and most yoga studios that are non-specialized (for example, not an Aerial or Ashtanga studio) will have a wide variety of Vinyasa classes at different skill levels.
Bikram (Hot) Yoga:
- What is it? Bikram Yoga is also known as “Hot Yoga”, due to the unique element of practicing in a 104-degree (F) room. This temperature is thought to promote flexibility and a detoxifying sweat.
- What to expect in a typical class: All Bikram yoga classes are 90 minutes long and use the same 26 asanas each time, although the order of the asanas being practiced may be different from class to class or teacher to teacher. It is crucial you bring water and a towel to all classes. You will be sweating buckets, so prepare to have your top soaked, or go shirtless. Booty shorts and a sports bra is the norm here.
- Best for these goals: Losing weight and improving flexibility.
- Where to practice: You can browse this large list of studios officially affiliated with Bikram’s Yoga College of India to find a location near you.
- What is it? Power yoga is the North American interpretation of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga with Westernized standards of physical exertion. Power yoga is a more vigorous form of yoga practice that emphasizes strength building movements and more lively Vinyasa flows.
- What to expect in a typical class: Most classes have the level of difficulty included in the description, so choose wisely! A typical power yoga class combines traditional yoga postures with more modern bodyweight strength-building moves mixed into the flows.
- Best for these goals: Losing weight and gaining strength.
- Where to practice: Core Power Yoga, a chain of studios in North America, is your best bet, plus your first week is free!
- What is it? A slow-moving style of yoga which holds each posture for at least one minute before resting and moving on. Iyengar Yoga focuses heavily on attention to detail, proper alignment, and perfecting each asana, so using props such as straps, blocks, and cushions is encouraged.
- What to expect in a typical class: You and your classmates will be receiving a lot of detailed instruction and alignment adjustments from the instructor. Unlike other yoga styles where students are encouraged to “do what’s comfortable for you” or “find your own way”, in Iyengar Yoga classes your errors will be actively corrected and advanced poses are not encouraged until you can do the basic ones perfectly.
- Best for these goals: Recovering from injuries, learning proper alignment, and developing stability.
- Where to practice: Due to the high levels of attention to detail, certified Iyengar instructors must complete at least two years of training. You can search for certified Iyengar instructors in your area here.
- What is it? Aerial Yoga, also called Anti-Gravity Yoga, is a modern style originating in New York that uses a fabric hammock (also called a “Yoga Swing”) to support your hips in forward and backbends, to support your bodyweight in inversions, to take stress off the joints, and to create space in the spine.
- What to expect in a typical class: Regardless of your yoga skills (or lack thereof), all practitioners brand-new to Aerial Yoga are encouraged to take the introductory or restorative classes offered first. Wear pants that cover your knees, and long-sleeved shirts, as the hammock may dig uncomfortably into your skin if you are not used to the feeling. It is also advised that you practice with a nearly-empty stomach, because spinning and slight dizziness can occur.
- Best for these goals: Low-impact exercise on your joints, mental clarity, inversions practice, and having fun.
- Where to practice: While there are a proliferation of boutique Aerial Yoga studios to be found, AntiGravity Fitness is an international chain of Aerial Yoga studios created by the founder of AntiGravity Yoga. You can browse all their locations here.
Do you feel inspired and ready to commit to a yoga studio that’s right for you? Go forth and conquer!